ACCESS Launches the Chicago area’s First Pilot Program to Improve Care for Patients Struggling with Severe Mental Illness and Trauma

December 6, 2017


Pilot made possible with $125,000 grant from RCHN Community Health Foundation


NEW YORK AND CHICAGO – Access Community Health Network (ACCESS) is launching a new pilot program to improve outcomes for residents of the South and West sides of Chicago with serious and persistent mental illness through a virtual, integrated, comprehensive health home program. The health center network serves a community characterized by high rates of poverty, trauma, and poor health outcomes, and a disproportionate burden of serious mental illness and substance abuse.


The program, which will integrate primary care with mental health and substance abuse treatment, housing, and employment support services, is made possible with a $125,000 grant from the RCHN Community Health Foundation.


“For anyone grappling with social determinants of health such as housing, food and employment insecurity, maintaining their health care is a constant challenge; and for those struggling with severe mental illness or substance-related conditions, it’s an even greater challenge,” said ACCESS CEO Donna Thompson. “This grant will help us to improve access to behavioral health care for our most vulnerable patients and help us address some of the underlying issues that can exacerbate their conditions, such as housing or employment issues.”


Patients will work with a care coordinator and behavioral health specialists who will assess their needs, identify gaps, and coordinate services through a multi-disciplinary team working both within the health center and with community partner organizations. If the pilot project proves successful, ACCESS hopes to launch the integrated model in more locations.


“By developing effective care strategies that integrate medical and behavioral health care with social supports for the most disadvantaged patients, the ACCESS project holds the promise of improving health care delivery and the day-to-day life for community residents,” said Feygele Jacobs, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation. “Our foundation is pleased to support this innovative project in Chicago and share lessons learned on how to deliver health care that works better for high-risk communities.”


Serving more than 180,000 patients across 36 sites in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, ACCESS is one of five grantees in five states to receive $125,000 each to launch an innovative approach to improve community health. Other projects include initiatives to reduce ER visits and hospitalizations among complex, high-use patients at Fenway Health in Boston, MA; improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables for those at risk for diabetes and other chronic illnesses at the Idaho Primary Care Association in Boise, ID and Mariposa Community Health Center in Nogales, AZ; and identify and tackle housing triggers of asthma and other health conditions at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles, CA.


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Access Community Health Network is one of the largest networks of community health centers in the nation, offering preventive and primary care services to more than 180,000 patients annually at 36 sites in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. For more information, visit:

 The RCHN Community Health Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation established to support community health centers through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. The only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers, RCHN CHF builds on a long-standing commitment to providing accessible, high-quality, community-based healthcare services for underserved and medically vulnerable populations. For more information, visit